I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Housing authority reform easily clears N.M. Senate
Lujan’s carrying the legislation in the House increases the chances of its passage. Another sign of the bill’s better-than-even odds at clearing the Legislature is Lujan’s decision to send it before two House committees and not three. A three-committee referral is usually a death sentence for most legislation.
“My hope is that this bill gets all the way through, and I think it will,” Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said Monday. “There’s a lot of bipartisan support.”
Papen, who met with the speaker’s staff Monday to ask if Lujan would shepherd the bill, was heartened by the response she got.
“We want to get it on the fast track if we can,” Papen said. “We want to get it through the committees.”
Some of the reforms in Papen’s bill include consolidating the seven regional authorities into three, designating an agency to oversee regional operations, strengthening conflict-of-interest language, permanently eliminating the authorities’ ability to issue bonds, and requiring that transactions of over $100,000 be reviewed and approved by the mortgage finance authority.
Most of the housing authority system crumbled in 2006 when the Albuquerque-based Region III Housing Authority defaulted on $5 million in bonds it owed the state. Soon thereafter the State Investment Council released a report that found widespread misuse of the bond money, which was supposed to be spent on houses. Last month the state auditor released long-awaited special audits that confirmed the problems.
The legislation and its reforms build on reforms approved in 2007, when the Legislature and Denish, signing the bill in the place of the governor, temporarily stripped the housing authorities’ bonding ability and gave the Department of Finance and Administration and state treasurer roles in administering the agencies’ finances.
Attorney General Gary King, meanwhile, has been investigating why and how the housing authority system collapsed and is preparing to take the case to a grand jury.
“I certainly hope the attorney general will be forthcoming with his findings soon,” Papen said. “I don’t know what is taking so long to look into this.”